By Ina Krasteva
Miriam Adeney, the author of “Kingdom Without Borders,” once said of travel experiences that, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere.” Many TEFL teachers who landed back at Heathrow airport after years teaching English abroad can surely second that. The idea of going back home is crosses your mind at some point no matter where on the world TEFL map you are, and one of the main concerns teachers have is what they are going to do when they return and what their new future will look like.
Booking your ticket back to the United Kingdom is the first step to your long journey back to your roots. Meeting the reverse culture shock is the second.
The life as you knew it is simply not the same. While you were teaching at a primary school in the suburbs of Johannesburg, your sister married a Scottish guy you’ve never met. Two years later when she had twins, you were teaching in a small mountain village in Southern Chile and you had decent Internet access once per month if you were lucky. On your return, the little toddlers look at you suspiciously.
Catching up with friends and family is the funniest and the most rewarding part of going back home, but entering the labor market is the toughest and the most challenging aspect. After teaching English abroad for a period of years, many people choose to pursue a career in the same field and become teacher trainers when they come back to the UK. The English as a Second Language qualification is a popular option. Qualified and experienced English teachers may obtain the DELTA diploma and gain valuable advanced skills as teacher trainers. It is an excellent choice for those who prefer working with adults and mature students.
If you plan to stay in education but you would rather prefer teaching in the public school system, you may need to go back to university and acquire additional qualification. Working at private and international schools is another option worth considering, especially for those who have an eye for teaching in a multi-cultural environment. In case you are an entrepreneur by heart, you may even open your own language school.
If you do want to stay in education and like to working with youth but do not see yourself as a teacher in a long-run, you may become a student advisor or a study abroad coordinator. As a coordinator or advisor, you will be able to motivate young people to get out of their comfort zone and explore the world.
There are also rich prospects in entering the publishing world. Many English teachers have a strong background in linguistics or the humanities, which makes them an excellent fit as textbook writers and course curriculum creators. One of the advantages of this type of work is that it often offers flexible hours or even freelance options.
At this point you may think that your career path will be related to the education industry, but there’s no need to limit yourself to teaching. Many people who spent years abroad and felt like foreigners themselves take jobs in immigration services. If you learned an additional language while on the road or advanced your prior study of language, it is an asset even if you are not fluent. The cross-cultural communication skills and the cultural sensitivity you acquire overseas will come in handy in a host of government agencies and non-profit organizations. You can serve as a resettlement advisor or an immigration officer, for example; newcomers in a foreign country often feel more comfortable talking to someone who can actually understand them.
If you prefer to stay away from the government sector in the uncertain times of Brexit, you may want to consider a career in consultancy. Depending on your prior experience and academic background, you may consider joining an international advisory firm working with clients from all over the globe. Businesses depend on moving and selling goods and services across the world, and all major corporations are looking for talent with proven international experience who are willing to travel and adapt easily to new people and environments. You gained all these valuable skills during your time abroad, and now you can use them to the fullest.
And there’s always the option of more academic study. Your experience overseas will boost your chances to get admitted to the grad school you have dreamed about since your freshman year at university. Foreign experience will set you apart from other applicants and you will have a broader range of topics to discuss in admissions interviews or in personal essays.
Teaching English as a foreign language is a non-traditional career path that is often seen not as a long-term career, but as a temporary job. In truth, it can be either — it is anything but a well-defined route. If you’re committed to a career in education, it provides an excellent entry point into a lifetime of teaching or related work, but it can also be a stepping stone on virtually any other career path.